Restoration: CCC ditch site mitigation on the San Miguel River helps fish, irrigators and improves boating safety


From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

Built in the 1950s, the diversion had wreaked havoc on the riparian ecosystem, posed a hazard to boaters and kept a 1,500-foot stretch of the riverbed dry. Noting the need to reestablish fish habitat and improve safety for boaters, a coalition of environmental groups, state and federal agencies, and the CCC embarked on a 10-year restoration project. That project is now complete.

“There were a whole lot of partners in this, the most important of which was the CCC,” said Dan Kowalski, an aquatic biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They own the diversion structure and the water rights, so without them this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Construction, which entailed building a fish ladder and a low-flow channel, wrapped up last month. When it was built, the dam bypassed several thousand feet of the river before reentering downstream. To fish, the low concrete structure seemed an impenetrable wall, particularly to the Flannelmouth sucker, which aren’t particularly good jumpers. The fish ladder was designed to accommodate both nonathletic fish like suckers and agile sport fish like brown and rainbow trout.

As with any project involving water rights and multiple jurisdictions, hatching a practical venture involved careful planning and piecemeal fundraising by environmental groups, as well as cooperation between them, the owner, and state and federal agencies…

“This was one of those projects where different people pushed the rock up the hill at different times,” said Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust. “Over 10 years, people came and went.”

Funding came from a variety of sources, including the Nature Conservancy, the Southwest Water Conservation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Walton Family Foundation, the Telluride Foundation and a sizeable grant from the state’s Fishing is Fun program, which uses money from federal excise taxes on boating and fishing.

Here’s the Coyote Gulch post with the announcement from the Colorado Water Trust

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here

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